Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Thursday met with various leaders including the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, the Sultan of Sokoto, his eminence Sa’ad Abubakar, and former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, as part of efforts to address the myriad of challenges bedevilling the country.
The closed-door meeting which lasted for over nine hours took place at the Kano Conference Hall of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
According to Obasanjo in a letter of invitation earlier extended to the Nigerian Labour Congress, the meeting which was in collaboration with the Interfaith Initiative for Peace, National Peace Committee and Socio-Cultural Consultative Committee all under Committee for Goodness of Nigeria, was an exploratory one bordering on pressing issues of national unity, security, peace, integration, economic revitalisation and development, women and youth welfare and general progress of the country.
However, at the end of the meeting, former President Obasanjo could not be sighted for comments, while former Head of State, General Abdulsalami declined to speak to journalists.
Meanwhile, the former Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbe and Cardinal John Onaiyekan who were also present, simply told journalists that the meeting was for the progress of the country.
Ogbe said a communique on the outcome of the meeting will be issued soon.
President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians that the government is recruiting 10,000 new police officers to boost national security.
“We are currently recruiting 10,000 new police officers to reinforce our personnel capacity across the country,” the President said on Thursday while delivering a speech in Lagos on his one-day visit for the inauguration of various projects.
In addition, he said, “I have directed the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission to carry out an upward review of Police salaries and benefits”.
Speaking further, President Buhari declared that no Federal government since 1999 has been as committed as his administration in reforming and repositioning the Nigeria Police Force and national policing architecture.
“In 2019, I signed into law the Act establishing the Nigeria Police Trust Fund, the first in the history of the Force, to provide guaranteed funding to support Police welfare, logistics and equipment.
“In September 2020, I assented to the bill amending the Nigeria Police Act, which was originally enacted in 1943.
“This new Act, a vast improvement over the old one, among other things spells out the modalities for the implementation of a National Community Policing Scheme in Nigeria.
“This new scheme will build confidence within our local communities and make them active stakeholders in the safety and security of their environs,” he said.
Commending the Lagos Governor on the newly-acquired security equipment and assets, the President noted that it would go a long way in boosting the morale of the Police, and further enhance their capacity to fight crime and combat criminality.
“This is even more touching in the light of the unwarranted violence that ensued in the wake of the #EndSARS protests last October, which saw the security architecture in Lagos State being severely damaged,” he said.
The President added that it was commendable that Lagos State, the Centre of Excellence, has shown a truly resilient spirit, in the face of the massive destruction it suffered last October.
President Muhammadu Buhari has called for an overhaul of the national strategy on cybersecurity.
The President on Tuesday asked Nigerians to explore the internet for economic growth opportunities, improve knowledge, and mitigation of crime.
“I urge the National Security Adviser to continue to coordinate the efforts of all stakeholders to ensure that our Internet and cyberspace are used for the enhancement of national security and economic progression,’’ the President said at the launch of the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy (NCPS) 2021.
“I am confident that, together, we can pave the way for the creation of new opportunities to usher Nigeria into a bright future driven by a prosperous cyberspace and digital economy.’’
The President noted that the Federal Government had taken some major policy decisions to increase penetration of the internet in the daily lives of citizens, particularly for the utilitarian purpose, with the launch of the National Broadband Plan 2020 – 2025 in March 2020; National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy 2020 – 2030; National Identity Program, Treasury Single Account and Bank Verification Number schemes.
“All these initiatives serve as enablers for tackling many of the economic and security challenges facing our country while also providing us with the platform to improve accountability and transparency in our unwavering resolve to tackle corruption.
“However, like many other countries across the globe, the growth and development of the internet is accompanied by significant problems. We are witnessing a rise in threats posed by cybercriminals, online financial fraudsters, and cyber terrorists who use the internet to cause apprehension,’’ the President said.
He added that the internet and social media have witnessed a surge for the propagation of hate speech, fake news, seditious and treasonable messages, as well as the risks of breaches to personal information and government sensitive data.
“It is almost impossible to overstate the challenges. Some global events such as the rapid emergence of new technologies, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the advent of 5G technology, have further widened the scope and diversification of these cyber threats.
“In October 2020, we all witnessed an escalation in the use of the social media for dissemination of subversive messages and incitement of violence which played a part in heightening tensions, causing unrest and spurring widespread acts of looting and destruction across the country.’’
President Buhari said the Federal Government had been proactive, over the past couple of years, in taking steps to ensure progressive use of the internet and cyberspace.
“In 2014, the maiden National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy was developed to provide the necessary roadmap for the realisation of our national cybersecurity programme. This national effort paved way for Nigeria to reach numerous cybersecurity milestones over the past six years.
“Therefore, in order to build on this achievement and reposition ourselves for enhanced engagement in cyberspace, it became expedient to review the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy 2014 and develop a comprehensive National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy 2021 for the common good of our country.’’
According to the President, the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy 2021 will provide us with the necessary platform to effectively confront the dynamic nature of threats in our cyberspace.
“The document will also provide the framework that would enable us to harness the efforts of our private sector, academia, and industry towards progressive economic and national development.
“To this end, the document will provide the platform for technical education, digital skills acquisition, and indigenous technology production, thereby creating job opportunities for our youth and supporting our resolve to alleviate poverty and boost our economy.’’
In his remarks at the event, the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), said there had been a surge in the use of the internet, especially during the COVID-19 lockdown around the world, with increasing waves of crimes, irregular migration, and threats to border security.
The NSA noted that many platforms including banking, communication, and military had come under more threat, with personal information easily distorted and explored, necessitating a review of the 2014 National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy (NCPS).
He said the reviewed document will work towards mitigating the “suffocating presence and unpredictable threats’’ of cybercrimes.
President Muhammadu Buhari has failed to honour the invitation by members of the House of Representatives to address them on the security situation in the country as plenary commenced on Thursday in his absence.
Members of the House of Representatives had earlier on December 1st passed a resolution to invite President Buhari to brief the house on the true state of the security situation in the country.
This decision was taken when the House considered a motion moved by members from Borno State on the massacre of 43 rice farmers in the state by Boko Haram insurgents.
In response to this, the President’s Personal Assistant on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie announced on Monday, December 7 that the President will address a joint session of the National Assembly.
At the commencement of plenary on Thursday, there was no sight of President Buhari.
A lawmaker from Rivers State, Solomon bob then raised a point of order over the President’s refusal to honour the invitation of the house. He asked the Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila to update the House on the subject matter.
The Speaker responded by saying the House will wait for official communication from the President.
the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, that the National Assembly had no powers to summon the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) over the rising insecurity in the country.
Malami had said this in a statement titled, ‘Buhari’s summons: NASS Operates outside constitutional bounds’, on Wednesday.
Four journalists and their driver are still being held in Burundi after being arrested for undermining national security while covering a rebel attack from neighbouring DR Congo, the attorney general said.
The Burundian reporters were detained on Tuesday last week while reporting in Bubanza, in the country’s northwest, prompting calls from free press groups for their immediate release.
The journalists, from the Iwacu newspaper, one of the last independent publications in Burundi, were detained along with their driver while trying to speak to residents fleeing fighting between rebels and national forces.
“The attorney general of the Republic wants to reaffirm here that these people were not arrested because they are journalists but for the things they are accused of,” Sylvestre Nyandwi said in a statement released late Thursday.
He said they were “apprehended on a hill where clashes were taking place and facts at the disposition of the prosecutors indicate that they could have had this information beforehand,” he said.
He said the court in Bubanza had “decided on the preventive detention” of the five for “undermining national security”.
At least 14 Burundian rebels were killed in the attack, the first by the RED-Tabara group since 2017, according to Burundian police.
The rebels meanwhile claim killing about 10 defence personnel.
Burundi has been locked in crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza in April 2015 announced he would seek a controversial third term in office, sparking civil unrest that has left 1,200 dead and over 400,000 displaced.
The next presidential election is scheduled to be held in 2020.
The international media rights group RSF recently warned that there was such a crackdown on the press in Burundi that “there is a risk of all forms of independent journalism disappearing” less than a year before the election.
Burundi is currently ranked 159th out of 180 countries on the RSF’s world press freedom index.
The lawmakers had resolved to invite the police boss to brief the Senate on the measures put in place to address the current security situation in the country.
They made the resolution on Thursday last week when they condemned the attack on Kajuru Castle Resort in Kaduna State, where gunmen killed a Nigerian and a British national.
The assailants had also abducted three other persons in the process.
Senator Shehu Sani, who raised a motion on the attack last week, also called the attention of the lawmakers to the abduction of Chairman of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Dr Muhammed Mahmood, during Tuesday’s plenary.
According to him, suspected bandits blocked the Kaduna-Abuja Expressway on Monday and kidnapped the UBEC boss and several others.
“He (Mahmood) was kidnapped with his daughter and his brother was killed immediately,” Senator Sani told his colleagues.
He added, “Kidnapping along Abuja-Kaduna expressway is something we talk about every day, yet the road is still as dangerous as it has always been. That route has become one of the most dangerous and tragic routes in Nigeria.”
In his remarks, the Senate President commended Senator Sani for his observations on the unfortunate situation regarding the abduction.
He noted that the Senate had agreed that the police boss would appear before it and they would put heads together to discuss the series of kidnappings in the country.
Senator Saraki said, “I also think there will be an appropriate time to take up some of these issues that you have raised. I think that will probably be the best way forward on this.”
“Hopefully when he comes here, we will have a more holistic approach to finding a solution to this unfortunate and rampant incident of kidnapping, particularly on this Kaduna-Abuja Road,” he added.
The Senate President appealed to the security agencies to ensure that the UBEC Chairman and others kidnapped regain freedom.
A second Canadian citizen is reportedly being investigated by China on suspicion of endangering national security, adding to tensions after Canada’s arrest of a top Chinese telecom executive on a US request.
Michael Spavor, a China-based business consultant who facilitates trips to North Korea, was placed under investigation on Monday by state security in the northeast city of Dandong, the official Liaoning province news agency said on Thursday.
His disappearance emerged after former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig was detained by state security during a visit to Beijing — also on Monday and under similar suspicions.
Kovrig’s arrest was seen by experts as retaliation over Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, at Washington’s request on allegations related to breaking Iran sanctions
Spavor is suspected of “engaging in activities that harm China’s national security”, the Chinese news agency added.
Based in Liaoning province, which borders North Korea, he has met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and famously arranged some of retired NBA star Dennis Rodman’s visits there.
The Canadian government had earlier reported that Spavor was missing in China after being questioned.
The Beijing News daily has reported that Kovrig, who works for the International Crisis Group think tank, was under investigation on suspicion of “engaging in activities that endanger China’s national security,” — a phrase often used in espionage cases.
Huawei’s Meng was released on Can$10 million (US$7.5 million) bail by a court in Vancouver on Tuesday pending a US extradition hearing.
Her case has infuriated Beijing and shaken Canada’s relations with China, which is itself embroiled in a trade war with the United States.
Kim and Rodman
Spavor is based in northeast China, where he runs the Paektu Cultural Exchange programme, an organization that facilitates sport, cultural, tourism and business trips to North Korea.
He earned recognition after helping facilitate visits by former Chicago Bulls star Rodman in 2013 and 2014. Spavor has also appeared in North Korean state media photos showing him talking with Kim a few years ago.
AFP’s attempts to call his two cellphone numbers were met with messages saying “powered off” or “invalid” and calls to the Paektu Cultural Exchange office went unanswered.
“We have been unable to make contact since he let us know he was being questioned by Chinese authorities,” Canadian foreign ministry spokesman Guillaume Berube told AFP.
Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said the Canadian government had raised his case with Chinese authorities.
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to inquiries.
Kovrig’s fate is also unknown, as Chinese authorities have yet to confirm why he is being held.
His employer, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said he was detained by the Beijing bureau of Chinese state security Monday night, but it has not received any information since then.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Wednesday that ICG was not registered in China and its employees would be “in violation” of the law if they engage in activities in the country.
Canadian officials said they were officially informed via fax early Wednesday of Kovrig’s detention.
“Canada is deeply concerned about the detention of Mr. Kovrig and Canada has raised the case directly with Chinese officials,” Freeland said.
Kovrig was based in Hong Kong for ICG, working on foreign policy and security issues in the region, particularly on the Korean Peninsula.
ICG closed its office in the Chinese capital after Beijing passed a law on NGOs, which came into force in 2017, to better control the activities on its soil of foreign organizations.
Friends and experts say Kovrig may have become a “hostage” and “pawn” in the three-nation feud.
“In this case, it is clear the Chinese government wants to put maximum pressure on the Canadian government,” Guy Saint-Jacques, the former Canadian ambassador to Beijing, told AFP.
Freeland has also indirectly criticized statements by US President Donald Trump, who said in an interview on Tuesday he was ready to intervene in the Meng affair if it helped seal a trade deal with China.
“Our extradition partners should not seek to politicize the extradition process or use it for ends other than the pursuit of justice and following the rule of law,” the Canadian minister said.
Asked by Reuters if he would intervene with the Justice Department in her case, Trump had been quoted as saying: “Whatever’s good for this country, I would do.”
Freeland said it would be “up to Ms. Meng’s lawyers whether they choose to raise comments in the US as part of their defense of Ms. Meng.”
It “will be up to the Canadian judicial process, to Canadian judges, how to weigh the significance of what Ms. Meng’s lawyers say.”
Hong Kong on Monday banned a political party which promotes independence, calling it a threat to national security, as Beijing clamps down on challenges to its sovereignty.
It was the first ban on a political party since the city was handed back to China by Britain 21 years ago. The foreign ministry in London expressed concern at the move.
Semi-autonomous Hong Kong enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland, including freedom of expression. But the space for dissent is shrinking in the face of an increasingly assertive China under President Xi Jinping.
Hong Kong’s security minister John Lee said he had upheld a police request to ban the Hong Kong National Party “in the interest of national security, public safety, public order, and the protection of rights and freedom of others”.
HKNP is a well-known but tiny group with a core membership of only around a dozen.
Lee told reporters the party “has a very clear agenda to achieve its goal of Hong Kong being made an independent republic”, saying that contravened the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.
Lee said the party had tried to infiltrate schools and had spread “hatred and discrimination” against mainland Chinese people in Hong Kong.
HKNP had also said it would not stop at force, Lee added, but he conceded it had never committed violence and that its leader Andy Chan had advocated non-violence.
Chan had no immediate comment on the decision.
Britain’s Foreign Office (ministry)said in a statement it was “concerned” at the move, noting it was the first such ban since the handover.
“The UK does not support Hong Kong independence, but Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and its rights and freedoms are central to its way of life, and it is important they are fully respected,” it added.
Human Rights Watch called the ban “a milestone in the Beijing and Hong Kong governments’ assault on Hong Kong’s freedoms”.
Lee’s justification that the move was pre-emptive, even though the group had not committed violent acts, set a “dangerous precedent” that could see more pro-democracy groups banned, said HRW’s senior China researcher Maya Wang.
Crackdown on dissent
Police requested the party ban in July under the Societies Ordinance, which stipulates groups can be prohibited in the interests of national security and public safety.
The bid was slammed by rights groups.
Activists calling for Hong Kong’s independence from China emerged after mass pro-democracy rallies in 2014 failed to win reforms.
But pro-independence campaigners including Chan have since been blocked from standing for office, and others disqualified from the legislature.
Leading independence activist Edward Leung was jailed for six years in June on rioting charges after clashes with police in 2016.
HKNP has lost momentum over the past two years as the government seeks to muzzle pro-independence sentiment.
However, the party was back in the headlines after police sought the ban. Chan later gave a high-profile talk at the city’s press club which Chinese authorities demanded should be canceled.
Chan described Beijing as Hong Kong’s “colonial master” in his speech to a packed audience at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in August.
China’s ministry of foreign affairs had asked the FCC to cancel the talk but it refused, arguing that different views should be heard in any debate.
The Hong Kong government said that while it supported freedom of speech and the press, allowing Chan to speak contravened the city’s mini-constitution.
President Donald Trump said Tuesday that America’s current immigration system weakens national security, as his administration sought Supreme Court backing to lift protections shielding 700,000 “Dreamer” immigrants from deportation.
Days after Trump sparked an international uproar by reportedly complaining about immigration from “shithole” countries, his administration sought to refocus the debate by tying a series of current immigration programs to terror threats.
A new report from the Justice and Homeland Security Departments said that nearly three-fourths of the 549 international terror-related convictions in US courts since the September 11 attacks in 2001 involved foreign-born individuals, including 148 granted citizenship after arriving in the United States.
It also said it had blocked many hundreds more potential terrorists who tried to enter the country both legally and illegally.
Trump tweeted out a link to the report Tuesday evening, in support of White House efforts to end programs like the green card lottery and family-based migration.
“We have submitted to Congress a list of resources and reforms. We need to keep America safe, including moving away from a random chain migration and lottery system, to one that is merit-based,” he said.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions unveiled the report five days after Trump rejected a bipartisan deal that aimed to reform some immigration programs, partly fund a Mexican border wall, and guarantee the status of the “Dreamers” — immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.
Sessions described the data as “only the tip of the iceberg.”
“We currently have terrorism-related investigations against thousands of people in the United States, including hundreds of people who came here as refugees.”
“This report reveals an indisputable sobering reality — our immigration system has undermined our national security and public safety,” he said.
– Battle over ‘Dreamers’-
Trump lashed out last week at the US judicial system as “broken and unfair” after a judge blocked his decision to scrap the program that has protected the so-called Dreamers from deportation since 2012, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
His Justice Department courted further controversy Tuesday when it announced it would appeal directly to the Supreme Court the San Francisco judge’s challenge to Trump’s order to end DACA.
The department said it was avoiding appealing to the northern California appeals court to expedite the case. But critics said the move aimed to get the case before a likely more sympathetic group of judges.
“Today’s announcement is just the latest in a disturbing pattern of hostile actions directed at young immigrants across America,” said Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy at the American Civil Liberties Union.
It was during increasingly fraught negotiations on a bipartisan immigration deal that Trump, according to one official present, complained about immigrants from “shithole” countries and suggested he preferred Norwegians.
Senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham blamed Trump’s staff Tuesday as “irrational” for killing off the tentative compromise reached by Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
“I don’t think the president was well served by staff…. We cannot do this with people in charge at the White House who have an irrational view of how to fix immigration,” Graham said.
“This has turned into an ‘s-show’ and we need to get back to being a great country where Democrats and Republicans work together to do something that we should have done years ago,” he added, referring to immigration reform.
But Graham said he would continue to press for a deal that protects DACA recipients, partly funds the border wall, and moves policy toward more merit-based immigration.
“It’s not going to end poorly. It’s going to end well,” he promised DACA recipients.
– Want ‘people who assimilate’ –
In a briefing for journalists, a senior administration official said Tuesday that they want an immigration system that brings to the country people who will contribute knowledge and skills and better “assimilate” into US society.
“A properly functioning immigration system promotes assimilation in all its forms,” the official said.
“It doesn’t promote the admission of individuals who are not likely to succeed, who are not likely to assimilate, who could potentially radicalize or may already be radicalized to pose a threat to our national security.”
White House officials say they want a system more like Canada’s or Australia’s, where hopeful immigrants are evaluated on what kinds of skills or knowledge they can bring to the country.
But critics said the government’s approach, and the new immigration report, appeared to be aimed primarily at keeping out Muslims.
“This agenda-driven report is clearly designed to support the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant and Islamophobic policies,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations said.
“It ignores violence committed by white supremacists and other non-immigrants, and instead seeks to tar all immigrants with the brush of terrorism.”
There’s been a massive deployment of police personnel across Nigeria ahead of the Eid El Fitr celebrations.
A statement from the force headquarters in Abuja disclosed that zonal and state police chiefs are to ensure their operations cover recreation centres, public utilities, and other critical infrastructure.
Patrol teams will also be deployed on major roads and highways nationwide as officers have been given strict instructions to be civil, polite and firm in carrying out their duties.
The Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris, has appealed to religious and political leaders in Nigeria to be patriotic and exhibit acts capable of unifying the country and her people.
Addressing senior officers of the police force in Abuja, Mr Idris decried the actions of some leaders in southern Kaduna, which led to the escalation of the recent crisis that engulfed the area.
The Police boss, who however commended officers and men of the force for their role in restoring law and order in southern Kaduna said:
“Some of us are yet to imbibe the principles of leaderships. Whether you are a religious leader, whether you are a community leader, you should have some principles. And as leaders, what is lacking is love of Nigeria.
“I think we have to love Nigeria more in 2017.It is very important,” he stressed.
He further stated that: People just forget that this country belongs to all of us. Both the poor and the rich. You are where you are because God made you to be there.
“It is not because you have any special qualities. And I think it is very important.
“People should take leadership as a responsibility. All of us should be held responsible for this country,” the commissioner stressed.